Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything
by Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith
Technological advances can change the world. They have before. Human civilization was significantly altered in the not-so-distant past by indoor plumbing, steam power, and the assembly line. Imagine how different your life would be without electricity, automobiles, computers, and the internet. One can argue about the costs and benefits, but no one can dispute that such things have had wide-ranging impacts on how we live. Innovations like these were the result of brilliant people striving to understand the forces of nature and then inventing new ways to harness them to improve our lives. This process continues today. (If it ever stops, we’re in trouble.)
In Soonish, a husband and wife team (a cartoonist and a biological scientist) explore ten areas that may soon (or soonish) bring about such life-altering changes: cheap access to space, asteroid mining, fusion power, programmable matter, robotic construction, augmented reality, synthetic biology, precision medicine, bioprinting, and brain-computer interfaces. For each of these, they explain what it is, how close we are to achieving it (and why we might not), things to be concerned about, and how it could change the world. It’s not a comprehensive list of emerging technologies nor is it an overly detailed one. It doesn’t predict that these things will happen. It doesn’t promise a brighter future or warn of an impending apocalypse. It doesn’t argue that these things should or should not be pursued. It’s a reasonably objective overview for casual readers of areas that are currently being explored, interspersed with humor and cartoons, and it’s a surprisingly entertaining read. I know I enjoyed it.